NEW HAMPTON — With a New Hampton egg plant as a backdrop, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said Tuesday she’s optimistic about international trade negotiations.
Her tour of the egg plant was among the stops the Republican scheduled in Eastern Iowa, including in Decorah, West Union, Tama and Grinnell.
Deb El Food Products purchased the New Hampton egg plant on May 16 from Sparboe Food Company. Company President Elliot P. Gibber and his employees led Ernst through the plant after she and her entourage donned lab coats and hair nets.
International trade was a big part of the discussion there Tuesday because Deb El, based in New Jersey, does business all over the world.
President Donald Trump’s tariffs, and retaliatory tariffs imposed by other countries, have taken a heavy toll on Midwest farm commodities including soybeans and corn.
Ernst said she was optimistic about foreign trade negotiations.
“We feel pretty good about those trade deals we see movement on,” she said.
She said the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — an update to the former North American Free Trade Agreement — is making headway. though none of the three counties has yet ratified the deal.
“That one is ready. We just need the House to move on it,” Ernst said. “If Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings that trade deal up today, it would pass through the House.”
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Pelosi has said the Democratic-controlled U.S. House wants to pass the bill sometime this year, but has called for some changes including enforcement provisions for new labor and environmental standards.
The deal has support to clear the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate. “We think it’s a good bill,” Ernst said.
She also noted progress is being made in negotiations with China.
“There will be ongoing talks with China,” Ernst said. “I can’t say when that one will be done, but at least they’re still going through discussions.”
Ernst said she was excited to tour the egg production facility. It employs 140 people here.
“It’s really good for Iowa,” she said.
She’s working on reauthorizing the child nutrition program, and plants like Deb El play an important role in providing healthy food to schools, Ernst said.
First elected to the Senate in 2014, Ernst is up for reelection in 2020. She kicked off her reelection campaign last month during her annual Roast and Ride.
Three Democrats have announced campaigns seeking the nomination to run against her.